Science Festival Capped by Third Nutshell Games

Carrie Kroehler (left) and Patty Raun (right) with Nutshell Games winners Madeline Grupper, Brenen Wynd, and Susan Chen and judges Shernita Lee and Honzik Schenk.

With a 5-gallon bucket, a water bottle, and a dinosaur bone as props, Virginia Tech graduate students Susan Chen, Madeline Grupper, and Brenen Wynd won the third Nutshell Games, held Saturday, October 27, at the Moss Arts Center.

Hosted by Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science and held in conjunction with the Virginia Tech Science Festival, the Nutshell Games brought 29 research topics to the attention of 230 audience members attending the event.

Chen, from Human Nutrition, Food and Exercise, won with her talk, “Eat Your Trash: Why Food Waste Matters.” Grupper, a graduate student in the Department of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation, discussed public trust of drinking water in her presentation, “What Are We Drinking?” And Wynd, from the Department of Geosciences, talked about mass extinctions in his talk, “Almost All My Friends Are Dead.”

The three winners, determined by a panel of judges to have been the most engaging and to have communicated their research the most clearly, will each receive a $500 prize. All of the contestants will receive a professional quality video recording of their talk.

With an emphasis on communicating to non-scientists, the Nutshell Games talks were judged by a panel of six people from both on and off campus. The judges were

·         Honzik Schenk, 7th grader at Blacksburg Middle School;

·         Shernita Lee, director of Virginia Tech’s Graduate School Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion; 

·         Michael Sutphin, Blacksburg Town Council member;

·         Christina Martin, the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) coordinator for Giles County Public Schools;

·         Larry Hawkins, biology teacher at Blacksburg High School; and

·         Ruth Waalkes, associate provost for the arts at Virginia Tech.

Presenters this year included graduate students from a wide variety of research fields, including biomedical engineering, plant and environmental sciences, industrial and systems engineering, geosciences, biology, psychology, nutrition, rhetoric and writing, and many more. The complete speaker list is below:

1.    Soil Organic Matter: A Ticking Climate Bomb?Tyler Weiglein, Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

2.    Driving to the Future: Will Technologies Save Me or Kill Me?Nayara Faria, Industrial and Systems Engineering

3.    Almost All My Friends Are DeadBrenen Wynd, Geosciences

4.    What Explains Differences in Respiratory Mortality in Virginia Coal-mining Counties?Ruoding Shi, Economics

5.    Carbon NanoTube Sensing Networks: Preventing Unwanted Explosions and Structural Accidents Through Nano-technologyNishant Shirodkar, Aerospace Engineering

6.    Soil’s Breathing Under Different Vegetation Types at Mountain LakeRachel Hammer, Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

7.    Bioinspiration Shouldn’t Bug You!Khaled Adjerid, Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics

8.    Intelligent Transportation SystemsAwad Abdelhalim, Civil and Environmental Engineering

9.     Relating Beliefs, Content, and Math Instruction, Rachel Rupnow, Mathematics

10. What Makes for an Exceptional Fossil?Dana Korneisel, Paleontology

11. No-show

12. Assessing the Feasibility of Online Writing Support for Technical Writing StudentsAllison Hutchison, Rhetoric & Writing

13. Microscopic Machines!Ellen Garcia, Biological Sciences

14. When a Situation Feels Safe, That Is Precisely When You Should Feel on GuardSogand Hasanzadeh, Civil Engineering

15. Why People Are Important to Conservation, Bennett Grooms, Fish and Wildlife Conservation

16. Consider the ChloroplastElisa Gagliano, Biochemistry

17. Wildfire in Western United StatesFarshad Farkhondehmaal, Industrial and Systems Engineering

18. How Does the Family Environment Help Angsty Teens Learn to Control Their Emotions?Toria Herd, Psychology

19. Do You Know That There Are Invisible Water Reactors All Around You?Ni Zhu, Civil and Environmental Engineering

20. Sound Activated Shape Changing Drug CapsulesAarushi Bhargava, Engineering Science and Mechanics

21. Electrons That Flow Like Water?Adbhut Gupta, Physics

22. Against All OddsAshley Taylor, Engineering Education

23. Rooted to Sense?Brett Shelley, Plant and Environmental Sciences

24. Eat Your Trash: Why Food Waste MattersSusan Chen, Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise

25. Youth Agency in MoroccoNada Berrada, Alliance for Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought

26. Maria: The Unexpected CardiologistRyan King, Translational Biology, Medicine and Health

27. Diffusion Dynamics of Fake News Through Social MediaNastaran Khalili, Industrial and Systems Engineering

28. Foams Are the FutureJoey Sarver, Chemical Engineering

29. What Are We Drinking?Madeline Grupper, Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation

30. Designing a Smart Home of the FutureArchi Dasgupta, Computer Science

A version of this story appeared on the Center for Communicating Science website and on VT News. Nutshell Games videos are available at the Center for Communicating Science YouTube channel.

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